#FellowshipSpotlight | Marta Ali Studios


Marta Ali Studios

@Marta.Ali / martaalistudios.com

Specializing in digital design and fabrication, Marta Ali uses her unique aesthetic approach to manufacture 3D building materials and experiment with innovation in the field of architecture and design. We met up with Marta in her workspace at Open Works, a makerspace and community hub in Baltimore's Greenmount West neighborhood.

Tell us about Marta Ali Studios. What is it and how did you come into it?

A design and fabrication company focused on innovation and experimentation. My background is in architecture and I am interesting in contributing to the field by finding and providing things that do not currently exist in the marketplace. When I was in school, I was exposed to approaching problems in experimental ways that were not the norm. When I got out, I realized often you didn't have the technology or equipment to actually implement those types of ideas or that, really, the field was much more traditional and very formal. I liked working with big architectural firms though. It gave me an opportunity to learn and understand how everything works together in design. I started to expand to construction management, which I really liked. And I thought, "Okay, now I can design, I can understand the management side of it, but something was missing -- innovation." I was lucky to start exploring maker spaces around 2015 and it really allowed me to find what I had been looking for.

So it was really about you fulfilling your desire to be experimental in your approaches to design and architecture and in creating the spaces that people move through, live in, work in?

I think it needs to be engaging and thought-provoking. Growing up, I was greatly influenced by sci-fi movies and the architecture of my home country, Ethiopia, which is very unique and historically has had an intention of always trying to create something different, even with only very traditional materials like stone.

What is your big vision right now?

Right now, I'm trying to master and understand the full capability of the technology available for fabrication, experimenting and combining it with architectural theories to create something entirely new and unexpected. I want this company to be a change agent in the industry, to expand conversations on experimentation in the field, and make partners to grow these experimental approaches into a larger movement of radical innovation in architecture. I'm also interested in expanding the financial marketshare of architects within the field of manufacturing and development in order to create more equity for architects.

How has the BCAN fellowship helped that process?

I really love that they were able to provide time and resources for me to experiment and grow. The program also helped me expand my business structurally and strategically and exposed me to some really great mentors.

Why Baltimore?

Why not? It's the most interesting industrial city and it has an amazing history of manufacturing and industry which I love. I think we can bring different types of manufacturing back to the city - electronics, robotics, digital fabrication, 3D printing. There's a lot of opportunity and a strong foundation for growth here. I have lived in other cities but found my creative community in Baltimore and spaces like Open Works, BCAN, and Impact Hub have made me feel like home.